Two events took place this week that showed that France, while trying gamely to present a new face to the world, is struggling, like the rest of us, to escape the prison of its history.

The first was the signing in Aachen (known to the French as Aix-la-Chapelle) of a solemn treaty between France and Germany that, as I mentioned last week, promised much but will almost certainly deliver little. Conceived in happier times and intended as a update of the treaty of cooperation signed in 1962 by Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer, the idea was that the European Union’s two most important countries should formally commit themselves to ever closer convergence in the areas of economic development, defence, foreign policy and, of course, European integration.